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Grappling With My Schizophrenia Diagnosis

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Tonight, I climbed a wall. Well, attempted to; I managed to only reach halfway up before giving up, my hands sweaty, my arms shaking, almost to the point of numbness. My partner was cheering me up, telling me that at least I conquered half of the three-story (or was it four-story?) wall. I wasn’t happy nor sad; I was calm. I even managed to assess objectively why I wasn’t able to finish, without judging myself harshly, something I strive to do every day, and more often than not, fail. At least I made it halfway, after years of not climbing walls (during school fairs only, mind you) and lack of regular physical activity.

In my mind, I have always been up against walls. And I have always attempted to climb them. I’m not into competing with other people. I’m more interested in besting myself. Which is why, according to other people, I push myself harder than I should. Which is why I used to be ever vigilant of slipping, of slacking.

This is why I was devastated when I learned of my diagnosis four years ago (I was devastated, but did not realize it then). Schizophrenia is such an unwieldy word; it does not roll off one’s tongue easily, but bursts from it, creating a mess. Its unwieldiness pretty much describes how people with schizophrenia manage it (they don’t; at least, not at first and not alone).

The doctor explained my symptoms — blunt affect, hallucinations, disorganized thinking (and other cognitive deficits), depression — and what is to be expected if I did not take medication. The doctor also recommended shifting me to lighter, less demanding tasks. It was as if there was a wall rising in front of me, blocking the sun, brick by brick.

I used to resent that wall. I had my life in front of me, when the wall suddenly rose out of nowhere. It crushed my feeling of invincibility, turning it into a cloak of invisibility. I learned to lurk in the shadows, where my demons were.

But I learned to climb that damn wall. I was emboldened by the trust colleagues and friends had in me that I can do it. Foothold by foothold, handhold by handhold, I started to ascend. It was tough. Actually, it still is. But hopefully, it will get easier.

This is not a race, I learned soon enough. There is no last handhold for this wall, according to the doctor. You can shout “Rest!” if you need to. The important thing is to keep climbing.

I cannot claim that I am halfway up. As I said, there is no last handhold for this wall. But what I know is this: this should not prevent me from conquering other walls, such as social inequity in this diseased society. With help of course!

Hopefully, I will climb another wall. Like writing, reading and crafting, climbing brings me calmness and focus, two things ever-elusive to me. It also connects me to who I was before I got sick. I like to think that there is still something that ties me to that courageous being I once knew.

For now, I will revel in small victories.


“Climb on!”

Getty image by Nataly-Nete

Originally published: April 2, 2021
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